Posted June 27, 2004
Lee Likes Motocross
When my moto-riding neighbor Mark moved in, he promised he would take me for a ride sometime.
This morning I sat down to eat a bowl of earthy-crunchy cereal with three kinds of fruit and sugar-free soy milk. I had a superstrong cup of coffee at my elbow and a mountain bike ride in the works. As I savored the fruity goodness I looked forward to a great day.
Just then the doorbell rang. It was Mark.
"Hey, Lee. You want to ride some motocross?"
I am always about this close (hold your thumb and forefinger 1 millimeter from each other) to getting a dirt bike. I raced back in the late '80s but gave that up when I woke up in the intensive care unit. I rode a street bike a few years ago, but gave that up when I was no longer afraid. I knew I either had to start racing on the track or, if I stuck to the streets, end up in jail or dead. In the past 14 years I've ridden dirt bikes a total of four times. The last ride was two years ago, but the yearning never goes away.
Mark and I drove 40 minutes to the Leahy Family Farm in Milliken, CO. The Leahy boys have always been into motocross, and the family always dreamt about finding a piece of land where they could run a track and live the sweet moto lifestyle. About 10 years ago they found this 93-acre parcel, a dilapidated old dairy farm complete with more than 100 cast-out appliances and four feet of built-up manure on the barn floors. Between shovel sessions the boys carved their first laps among the refuse.
Now the place is dialed. The track is fun but not fatal. The dirt is sandy, smoothed and watered. And Ann Leahy signs you up with a smile and a country welcome.
Mark and I shared his 2-stroke 2003 YZ250. The newest bike I've ridden was a 1997, and dang, the bikes have gotten way better! Mark's YZ started easily, ran perfectly, felt nimble, made controllable power and sucked up bumps like they were nothing. I was bashing into stuff like an idiot, and I none of the impacts were as harsh as I feel on a typical downhill run.
The track honches were just plain ripping it up. It would be SO fun to feel that comfortable on a motorcycle. Just rail a turn and BRAAAP!!!
I rode three 20-minute motos, just trying to get a feel for the scene and the machine. If you can get past the funky controls, it's just like bike riding. Look where you want to go, pick good lines and stay loose and balanced.
Although I know better, I kept fixating on the huge ruts in the corners. My eyes would track right in front of my wheel, and as I left the rut I'd have to look around for where to go next. As long as my eyes followed the little tire canyons, I could not flow. When I managed to raise my gaze, things smoothed out considerably. It's a pretty rad feeling: Dive into a corner, bring the bike around and pin the throttle. BRAAAP!!!
I overheard a vet preaching to a politely earnest woman, "Look at the ruts once, decide which one you'll use, then keep your eyes moving. Pretty soon you're looking way ahead, and you start to make your own lines, cutting corners and making your own smoothest path. Most guys go out there and ride the track. You have to make the track yours."
Darn right. In moto as in MTB, in MTB as in life.
Double-extra thanks to Mark for letting my ride his bike through the track's only puddle.
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